Erin Gray: 'Buck Rogers's Col. Wilma Deering, Then And Now

By | May 28, 2019

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Left: Erin Gray on an episode of 'Love Boat' from 1980. Right: Gray as Colonel Wilma Deering on 'Buck Rogers In The 25th Century.' Sources: Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images; IMDB

As Colonel Wilma Deering on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Erin Gray was her era's definitive TV space sweetheart. Gray combined her model's looks with a charismatic presence -- and Wilma's take-charge manner to make her a reasonable substitute for Princess Leia as space-opera fans awaited another Star Wars film. That's not a comparison out of thin air, either -- Buck Rogers and its competitor Battlestar Galactica were launched to cash in on the public's hunger for Star Wars-like galactic drama, and the brunette Deering in her white jumpsuit, brandishing a big space blaster, wasn't far off from Carrie Fisher in her white Leia robe doing the same.

Buck Rogers lasted two seasons, from 1979-81, while Battlestar Galactica lasted just one. They were arguably the same show, with a key difference any fan would point out: Buck Rogers had Erin Gray in spandex space garb, and Battlestar Galactica did not.

The Best Jumpsuit In The Galaxy

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Left: Gil Gerard and Erin Gray as Buck and Wilma. Right: Gray in her jumpsuit. Source: IMDB

And there was the jumpsuit -- actually, more than one jumpsuit. The white one (which was actually two pieces) was the flight suit, for when Deering piloted her own space fighter. Then there were the glittery purple spandex jumpsuits for everyday, around-the-space station wear. (There was also a red two-piece spandex getup, and a different white outfit with a weird cap that made her look like a server in some restaurant at the end of the universe.) The colonel's costuming is really where the legend of Erin Gray begins -- Wilma Deering was truly an object of fascination for the young, male fans of the show, and for Buck Rogers (Gil Gerard) himself, who became romantically involved with her. How could he not? Not only was she a knockout, as his superior officer she had a way of ordering him around that he clearly enjoyed.

Gray didn't have a problem with the costume, she told Den of Geek:

They wanted it very form-fitting and tight. That’s all I knew.’s interesting, because I came from the world of modelling and fashion, so I wasn’t really shocked or uncomfortable about wearing the costume. I’d been one of the original Sports Illustrated models, so my sexuality, showing my body, I was comfortable with that. The thing was, I didn’t mind being on-camera that way, but I couldn’t walk around the studio with my spandex – I always had to wear a bathrobe over it!

Colonel Wilma Deering first captured the hearts and minds of America’s youth with the movie version of Buck Rogers (1979). The movie garnered such popularity, it quickly became a television show. Naturally, Erin Gray’s drop-dead figure in a very tight jumpsuit was a big part of the winning formula.